While loveable pets for some, and unwanted company for others, snakes will inevitably find their way into most garden spaces. Before you write these scaly travelers off as your worst enemy, consider some of the benefits that they bring to your backyard.
Snakes feed on many creatures that could damage or feed on garden plants. They help keep rat, mice, vole, and rabbit populations in check. Small mammals and rodents are the primary food sources for many snake species. Snakes may be more active in the spring or fall as they search for or come out of hibernation patterns.
There are several venomous snakes found in North Carolina, including the copperhead, cottonmouth (water moccasin), three rattlesnake species, and eastern coral snakes. When observing a snake on your property, keep a healthy distance unless the snake is positively identified as non-venomous. This can be difficult to identify. Rattlesnakes can be identified by a pit between and slightly below the eye and nostril, long movable fangs, a vertically elliptical pupil, and a triangular head. Coral snakes have a distinct pattern of red and black rings separated by a yellow ring. Nonvenomous snakes, such as the black rat snake (also known as chicken snake or simply black snake), have two rows of scales on their tails instead of the single row that venomous snakes have.
While some snake species are more common than others, there are precautions you can take to discourage snakes in general; Reducing cover and food supply by mowing closely around homes, gardens, and storage buildings, store firewood and lumber away from homes and elevated off the ground, reduce mulch layers around shrubs to discourage small animals, close cracks and crevices in buildings and around piles and utility connections.
It is not recommended to handle or kill any type of snake, particularly in situations where the snake cannot be identified. In general, most snakes will move on by themselves without the need to intervene. Non Venomous species are often valued for their ability to keep areas clean of small mammals and offer little risk to other inhabitants.